Thursday, November 17, 2016

INTJ Diaries: Aaron Burr, Sir

Dear Diary,
I'm done. Hamilton started the game, but I'm going to finish it.

A while back, I talked about the merits and strength of an INTJ/ENTP friendship. Now I'd like to explore the other side of that coin (er... ten-dollar bill?). While INTJs and ENTPs can complement each other nicely, they don't always. Check out the ENTP thread on the INTJ subreddit, and you'll find all sorts of mixed views. Sometimes iron sharpens iron for the better, and sometimes, well, one or the other is stretched a little too far. And then they snap. 

How does Hamilton--an arrogant immigrant orphan bastard whoreson--somehow endorse Thomas Jefferson--a man he's despised since the beginning--just to keep me from winning?'ve kept me from the room where it happens for the last time.
Hamilton's Aaron Burr is the perfect example of an INTJ's descent into vengeance and madness. He starts the show amiable, helpful, quiet and reserved, but generally willing to lend a hand where needed. But little things add up, more and more things start to nag, start to burn, and eventually he's had enough. He makes a rash decision--something INTJs should never do--and, well, the rest is history. Literally. But let's start at the beginning.

So Hamilton, this wet-behind-the-ears, nineteen-year-old kid finds Burr in a bar and is like, "Hey! Hey! You don't know me but I heard your name at school and I want to be just like you!" And Burr is like, "Well, okay, sure. Who are you?" The conversation continues and eventually Burr says, "Dude. Calm down. Here's a tip: Talk less. Smile More. Don't let them know what you're against or what you're for." This is the INTJ motto. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and your thoughts and beliefs closest of all. It's not that we don't think we have good things to say. On the contrary--we hold ourselves in very high esteem. It's just that we know mystery is power. The less people know about us, the easier we can surprise them, the easier we can confound them. The easier we can win.

The rest of the show is essentially Hamilton not listening to that advice.

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Burr, like all good INTJs, spends a while trying to keep Hamilton in check. He's the exasperated father of the revolutionaries. But then George Washington enters the mix. Burr sees this as a chance to put himself to good use, a chance to advance in the ranks, to make something of himself.

Your excellency, sir! Permission to state my case? I was a captain under General Montgomery until he caught a bullet in the neck in Quebec and well, in summary, I think that I could be of some assistance. I admire how you keep firing on the British from a distance. I have some questions, a couple of suggestions on how to fight instead of fleeing west...
This is the perfect INTJ introduction. He asks permission to speak and has it all planned out. He gives background, states his purpose, slips in a compliment, is polite and succinct, and has reasoning for everything he says. But then Hamilton enters the tent and it comes to light that Washington had asked to see Hamilton. Burr is dismissed without a second thought. That's a blow to the pride if there ever was one. We don't deal with that well.

So Burr disappears for a bit while Hamilton courts Eliza, and shows up again at the wedding where he's mocked by all his friends and it's revealed that he's dating a British officer's wife. During this conversation, he tells Hamilton to "be sensible" (the rallying cry of INTJs everywhere), and later, Hamilton says to Burr, "I will never understand you" (the rallying cry of everyone confronted with an INTJ). So Burr explains himself. If you read my last INTJ Diaries, you'll recall that INTJs love a chance to explain themselves. Burr is no exception. Enter "Wait For It"--the most important song for Burr's character.

Let's break it down step by step.

Love doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints--it takes and it takes and it takes. And we keep loving anyway. We laugh and we cry and we break and we make our mistakes, and if there's a reason I'm by her side when so many have tried, then I'm willing to wait for it. I'm willing to wait for it.
INTJs have both a very black and white and very grey view of the world. We see that everything is subjective--"love/death/life doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints"--which accounts for the grey. Nothing is set in stone because everything depends on people and people are notoriously unreliable. But we're also very set in our belief that everything is subjective. We know how the world works and we know what's going to happen--"we laugh and we cry and we break and we make our mistakes"--so we're able to make black and white judgments frequently and, if I may say so myself, well.

So Burr approaches his relationship, and later, the rest of his life, with this dichotomy of thought, and comes to the conclusion that he's where he is for a reason. He doesn't know that reason yet, but that's okay. Because he's going to wait for it. INTJs are all about the waiting game. In the story of the tortoise and the hare, INTJs are the tortoise. We're slow, we're steady, and we win the race. So Burr, in contrast to Hamilton's crazed mania, is going to wait.

I am the one thing in life I can control.
When I heard this line, I was blown away. So simple, and yet such a deep truth. INTJs know that the world is unreliable; we know that most of life is out of our control despite the fact that we've gotten fairly good at manipulating it. But we can control ourselves. We can talk less and smile more. We can keep our hearts not on our sleeves. We can be mysteries. We can be brilliant. We can be in control. So when Hamilton comes in and screws up all of Burr's pre-laid plans, well, Burr isn't happy. His gut starts to twist and knot. His mind rebels against any sane rationalization and Fi (introverted feeling) starts to take hold in all its underdeveloped glory. Suddenly emotions are dominant, anger is dominant, and he makes a snap decision. But more on that later.

I'm not falling behind or running late. I'm not standing still, I am lying in wait. 
Justification. A common trait of INTJs is being able to justify literally anything. It's a fun mental exercise to see just how far we can take a rational argument. (It pisses people off to no end.) Here, Burr is feeling inadequate. He sees how far and how fast Hamilton has risen. He hears the critiques of his peers, even if he doesn't acknowledge them, and it takes root somewhere deep. So he justifies his actions. He's not falling behind anyone. He's not losing the race of life. He's lying in wait for something greater. The tortoise will win--it'll just take time. He also manages to spin inaction into action. By not moving forward, he's not standing still, he's lying in wait. He's suddenly doing something rather than nothing. Isn't rationalization great?

Hamilton faces an endless uphill climb. He has something to prove. He has nothing to lose. Hamilton's pace is relentless: he wastes no time. What is it like in his shoes? Hamilton doesn’t hesitate. He exhibits no restraint; he takes and he takes and he takes. And he keeps winning anyway. He changes the game he plays and he raises the stakes, and if there’s a reason he seems to thrive when so few survive, then God damn it I'm willing to wait for it. I'm willing to wait for it.
Ah, jealousy. Admiration. Malice. Disgust. It's all in there. Hamilton is doing better--Burr knows this. Burr watches Hamilton and sees everything that Burr himself cannot do. INTJs are generally unable to act without hesitation. We're unable to act without restraint. And we usually view these as weaknesses. They don't lead anywhere good. They lead to unwise actions and early deaths. (Which, granted, is true, at least in this case.) But somehow this way of life is working for Hamilton. He keeps climbing and succeeding and winning. But how? Why?

And this is when Burr acknowledges that they're playing a game. INTJs have a tendency to view the world and all their actions within it as one large chess game. This move causes this move which results in this move: saying that will upset her which will upset him which will allow me to take his queen while he's upset. Every action has a reaction, every move a countermove. Everything follows the rules of the universe, which each INTJ has divined for himself through his interactions with other people. But Hamilton--Hamilton changes the rules and then raises the stakes. He's reckless and it's paying off. And whatever the reason for that is, it'll eventually come to light. And Burr will be there, ready to pounce. Ready to win.

So this mindset influences how he acts for the rest of the show. He's reached a turning point. At first, Hamilton was just this vaguely annoying kid with some good ideas and a lot of zeal. He was interesting, amusing. But then he started to get the upper hand. So, like any good INTJ, Burr stepped back to reassess the situation and came to the conclusion to wait. And so he waits.

"Dear Theodosia" is a chance to take a break from the deeply personal conflict and see that Hamilton and Burr aren't really that different after all. (Shadow functions, anyone?) They're both trying to do what they think is best. They both want the best for their children. They both want the world to end up more or less the same way, they just have very different ways of going about. There's a small hope that they can go back to getting along, but then Hamilton opens his mouth. 
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"Why do you assume you're the smartest in the room?" Burr asks. He has had it about up to here with Hamilton. "Goodness gracious, child," he thinks. "You're not nearly as smart as you think you are. So calm down, and then do us all a favor and shut up."

Then Hamilton comes to Burr in the middle of the night which Burr, as any tired INTJ would, points out. "Is this a legal matter?" he asks. "Yes, and it's important to me," Hamilton replies. Though, really, everything is important to him. "Burr, you're a better lawyer than me. I know I talk too much, I'm abrasive. You're incredible in court! You're succinct, persuasive. My client needs a strong defense--you're the solution." Burr is going, "Yes, yes, tell me something I don't know." And then, of course, he asks, "Who's your client?" and Hamilton timidly responds, "The new U.S. Constitution?" I can almost feel Burr rolling his eyes and sighing.

Burr: No.
Hamilton: Hear me out!
Burr: [Let me rephrase that...] No way!
He's hedging his bets. As much as he secretly admires Hamilton's ability to rush headlong into something and come out the other end successful, he refuses to try it. "But what if you're backing the wrong horse?" he asks. INTJs have to come at everything from every perspective. We see every side of an argument, which is one of the reasons why arguing with us is so irritating. (It's also one of the main reasons INTJs and ENTPs get along. Both types love to argue just for fun.) So he refuses to take a stand and Hamilton goes on to succeed some more.

They meet up again in "The Room Where It Happens," and Burr hits his final straw for going easy on Hamilton:

Hamilton: I'm sorry, Burr, I've got to go.
Burr: But--Hamilton: Decisions are happening over dinner. [Without you.]
Don't get me wrong, he's still going to be civil. Nice, even. But he's done waiting. Burr decides to act. "I want to be in the room where it happens." And that decision is irreversible. It sets him on a course, one that no one could stop.

See, when INTJs get an idea in their head--one that stays for more than just a fleeting conversation or thought experiment--it's nigh impossible to shake. It becomes an all-consuming force that drives every action and decision until the idea has reached its completion. This is often (frequently) harmful in relationships because if it doesn't have to do with the other person, the other person is mostly ignored. If it does, well, I can't imagine many people are comfortable with that level of scrutiny and obsessiveness. Crushing doesn't usually work well for us.

So, with an end goal decided, Burr runs for senator and beats out Hamilton's father-in-law. Hamilton is, understandably, not happy.

Hamilton: I've always considered you a friend.
Burr: I don't see why that has to end.
Hamilton: You changed parties to run against my father-in-law.
Burr: I changed parties to seize the opportunity I saw. I swear your pride will be the death of us all. Beware: It goeth before the fall.
Burr, in INTJ fashion, doesn't understand why Hamilton is upset. "Of course we can be friends. Why wouldn't we? It's all business." Hamilton, of course, doesn't see it that way. In Hamilton's life, everything is connected. Burr is able to compartmentalize. Burr didn't care who he beat--Schuyler was just the best chance he had. He just wanted power. Hamilton thinks it's a personal slight. The INTJ/ENTP relationship starts to sour. Don't get me wrong, this one was never really good to begin with. But it was fairly neutral. Not anymore.

Then Burr runs for president. He goes door to door campaigning, which is quite the task for an INTJ. We don't like interacting with people, much less people we don't know. So it only makes sense that Burr says, "Honestly, it's kind of draining." But he has a goal. He has decided what he wants and he will stop at nothing--no matter how unpleasant--to reach that goal.

Hamilton is MIA, and people are begging him for an opinion. "Jefferson or Burr--we know it's lose lose. Jefferson or Burr--but if you had to choose?" I truly believe that Hamilton thought about his answer. Burr was his friend, after all. But then pride--both of theirs--got in the way. So Hamilton responds:

If you were to ask me who I'd promote-- Jefferson has my vote. I have never agreed with Jefferson once. We have fought on like seventy-five different fronts. But when all is said and all is done, Jefferson has beliefs. Burr has none.
And, as the chorus properly responds, "OOOHHHHHHHH." And see, this may seem to be the case: INTJs hedge their bets, we keep our beliefs close, we don't talk much. We rarely take stands, because usually it's not worth the effort and we can be much more effective working quietly behind the scenes. But it's untrue. Aaron Burr believed in his family. He believed in his friends. He believed in himself. He even once believed in Hamilton. He believed in America, but he knew we had to be careful. He believed in stability and constancy. But to Hamilton--loud, opinionated, do-first-ask-questions-later Hamilton--it would appear that Burr has no beliefs to stick to.

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So Burr lost the election. But he loses with grace and dignity. He congratulates Jefferson and tells him, "I look forward to our partnership." To which Jefferson responds by mocking him and throwing back in his face that Hamilton chose to endorse Jefferson, even though the two hated each other. And Burr goes, "You know what? You're right."

Dear Alexander:
I am slow to anger, but I toe the line, as I reckon with the effects of your life on mine. I look back on where I failed, and in every place I checked, the only common thread has been your disrespect. Now you call me “amoral,” a “dangerous disgrace"--if you’ve got something to say, name a time and place, face to face.
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,A. Burr
It's calm, it's collected, it's pure ice. See, that's another thing about INTJs. When we get angry, we get quiet(er). It's not so much "I'm angry with you" as "You're dead to me." But Burr gives Hamilton a chance here. He goes, "You've effectively ruined my life, but let's fight it out. What's your reasoning?" Hamilton proceeds to be Hamilton, and Burr responds: "Careful how you proceed, good man. Intemperate, indeed, good man." Hamilton is quickly losing any and all chances to defend his actions. And then he loses them all. "Then stand, Alexander. Weehawken. Dawn. Guns drawn."

Burr has been pushed too far. He has reached the limits of quiet forbearance, and he makes a rash decision. Hamilton dies.

And Burr is struck with instant regret. Then that regret grows.

Now I'm the villain in your history. I was too young and blind to see. I should have known that the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.
That's generally what happens when INTJs make snap decisions. Even if those decisions turn out for the best (not that this one necessarily did), we regret them. We regret not taking the time to think it through. We regret not having the satisfaction that comes with a job well done. We don't particularly like the feeling of a lucky break, because it's not the feeling of personal satisfaction. A snap decision doesn't come from us, it's not something we can really take credit for, good or bad. But we will feel guilt. And we will feel regret. And, depending on the action, our new purpose in life could be to atone for whatever it was we did. "I should have known" becomes our rallying cry.

Alexander Hamilton, the ENTP, was best equipped to drive Aaron Burr to madness. He knew what buttons to push, and, even more than that, he knew how to be better. He knew how to win the game. He succeeded where Aaron Burr failed. Pride went against pride, and no one won.

So, all this to say, if you start to engage an INTJ in the chess game of life, talk it out before it comes to a life-or-death situation. If Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr had set their egos aside for a few hours and talked out their issues with each other, I don't think things would have escalated quite as quickly or as badly. INTJs have the rules of the universe in their heads, and everything is organized and planned. ENTPs are all about breaking the rules, barging forward without a plan. Together, the two can spur each other to greatness. But pitted against each other, well, one of them ends up dead. And it's not the INTJ.


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